In my line of work as a private geriatric case manager, there are few days that go by where I’m not reminded of the consequences of “not having one’s affairs in order.” In my last column, I spoke first-hand about my family’s personal experience with having to make difficult end-of-life decisions when my Dad was unable to speak for himself after a stroke left him on life support.
I won’t go into why most Canadians don’t invest in future care planning. Rather, I’ll encourage you to ask yourself two questions: “What is preventing me from planning ahead?” and “What is preventing me from gathering important documentation and putting it in one place?”
Personally, I can tell you from my vantage point, it’s a low priority for me at 41 years of age. A little reflection can help identify any barriers and often, we can find something to motivate us to overcome inertia. For me, I think about my daughter and husband and how I’d like to avoid any uncertainty or undue stress for them both.
Before you run off and start looking for any important documents in those dusty filing cabinets, (or in my case, the stack of papers waiting to be filed), take a step back and take stock of where you are at in your future care planning.
Ask yourself the following questions:
•Do you have a will, power of attorney and an advance care plan (including a representation agreement and advance care directive)?
•In a medical emergency whereby paramedics need to transport you from home to hospital, do you have a ‘Just in Case’ Emergency file? This would include medical history, emergency contacts, current list of medications, advance care plan, etc.
•If I become critically ill, who is able to care for me? Do they know I expect or want them to care for me? Are they able and willing to care for me?
•Have I financially planned for a critical illness and/or multiple chronic conditions? For example, hiring private services to help with maintaining independence and quality living at home as I age or after a critical illness, or moving to a more supportive living environment or to be closer to family.
If you are an older person or if you are an adult child with aging parents, consider the following:
•Is the senior living in their own home?
•Am I seeing changes in cognition and/or does my aging relative have some form of dementia?
•Is safety and well-being in the home a concern?
•Am I prepared to be a caregiver?
The good news is even if most of your answers are ‘No,’ the resources are at your fingertips. The bad news, well, you have to wait for another two weeks before we start tackling each question!
Wendy Johnstone is a gerontologist and is the founder of Keystone Eldercare Solutions. Her column runs in the Comox Valley Record every second Thursday.